Since I just beat N in Pokemon Black, I decided to tak a small break and review Radiant Historia. Also, just as a note, this game is apparently really hard to find in most areas. The 4 EBGames nearest to my house has it though, if the Canadian website is anything to go by. Amazon US has the price raised to $50+, but the Canadian Amazon still lists it at $34.99 and in stock. Is it because there are no people who play RPGs in Canada? That can’t be true though, since I know several. Just not many who actually buy their handheld games. Regardless, if you want the game for a reasonable price, consider phoning up some Canadian relatives (assuming you don’t live here already).
Radiant Historia is an RPG by Atlus that features time travelling and a more strategic take on the usual turn-based system. The protagonist is Stocke, an unsociable and silent young man under the Special Intelligence unit of Alistel, AKA people who do dirty work while the army takes all the glory. Alistel is currently at war over Granorg for arable land since desertification is happening quickly around the world, and Stocke is sent on a mission to rescue a secret agent being pursued by Granorg. He is given subordinates, Raynie and Marco, and the White Chronicle to aid him on his task. However, something goes wrong on the mission and the agent, Raynice, and Marco get killed by Granorg soldiers and Stocke barely escapes alive. He wakes up in Historia next to a shota and a loli who tell him he has to jump through time and make history go the right way so the world doesn’t end up as a giant desert.
The gameplay is a rather refreshing take on the traditional turn-based combat. The enemies stand on a 9×9 area during battle, and they can be moved using various attacks that push enemie units to a different square. What use is this? Multiple enemies can occupy a single square and some enemies occupy more than one square, and attacking an enemy will also deal damage to other enemies on the same square(s) as the target. With the right positioning, You can potentially deal damage to many enemies using a single target attack. Your characters can change turns with an enemy or another ally, and consecutive attacks combo and increase in damage. You also get Limit Breaks that can erase enemy turns later. With so many factors, skillful manipulation of the system can yield some beautiful results. Of course, things also work if you want to play it like a basic RPG system and kill enemies one by one (provided that you grinded/they don’t kill you first). The system is quite deep, and as with Atlus games, status-inflicting moves work on bosses and buffs work nicely. What you get at the end is a pretty deep and fun combat system, especially with moveable enemies. There’s some difficulty spikes, but nothing too extreme or ragequit worthy. The difficulty goes up pretty steadily for the most part.
There’s shitloads of backtracking. Like, there’s several dungones you have to go through multiple times no matter where you’re going, with different enemies at different points in the story. The backtrack-required dungeons aren’t exactly distinct, and look pretty much the same no matter where you go. There’s also no minimap, but I guess you don’t really need one since the bigger the dungeon is, the more straightforward the paths are. At the end I actually got used to the backtracking-required ones and memorized them.
The story is definitely on the better side of modern RPGs. It’s one of the most solid ones on the DS, with no draggy parts at all. I think I clocked around 35 hours at the end, which makes it a decently-lengthed game without unneccessary padding. Plus there’s two different ways of the story unfolding due to there being two timelines, and numerous bad ends. The time travelling isn’t confusing or frustrating at all, and there’s always a node during choices that can potentially go to a bad end.
There are no annoying party members, and most non-party members are fleshed-out and well-written. Especially the villain (even though you can probably guess that he’s evil at first sight). The protagonist doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but he’s a pretty cool guy and doesn’t angst like a emo teenager. He’s also the most badass in the team of playables in my opinion. The other party members are beyond simply tolerable, and I liked having them by my side. I wish they had more sidequests about the characters (I’d probably be completely satisfied if they had something that went as deep as social links, but I guess there is only so much you can do in a scenario where you know you’re saving the world right from the beginning.), because I wanted to know even more about them. I actually cared for everyone, even the villain. Atlus’ quality writing shines even in a 35 hour game.
I started up the game, and stopped at the first screen of dialogue just to listen to the music. After playing the game, I’m still listening to the bonus 5 track piano arrange CD that came with the game every moment I’m at the computer. I don’t think I’ll be letting that CD out of my computer any time soon.
The character portraits are nice, but there’s only one expression for everyone. The entire game is in 2D, using sprites, and there are no extremely flashy battle animations. Nothing WOW or limit-pushing, but it’s a pretty nice 2D look. Alistel, the city that you won’t be returning to too much, is actually the most beautiful backgroun IMO. A lot of the dungeons that require backtracking are extremely plain-looking, though (Gran Plains, I’m looking at you). This certainly is not a game for graphics whores or anyone looking for something that pushes the system to its limits in terms of graphical capability.
I enjoyed this game very thoroughly. If you’re looking for a DS RPG, Radiant Historia is a good place to start. It’s got a good plot that doesn’t feel too old-school at the same time, beautiful music, and fun gameplay where you can’t just blindly choose attack. RH is better than a lot of new RPGs this gen, and will become one of those hard-to-find games (judging on how hard it is to find in the US right now). Sadly, I think it’ll be forgotten or unnoticed by the majority of people outside gaming forums (y’know, like how a lot of standalone RPGs are nowadays).